Listening to your own cast on the stage

Successful Strategies to Increase Performance​

Have you ever experienced that you behaved in another way that you planned? Did you ever realize that you are doing exactly the opposite of what you have intended? Have you ever been in a trade and felt mixed feelings? Did you ever experience absolute certainty that you are entering a good trade in one moment and in the next moment you feel complete conviction, that this trade won’t work? Did you ever feel the need to be right about a trade although afterwards you knew that getting in this trade was a mistake?

If you said yes to some of these questions, then you are in good company. It is absolutely normal to feel and behave in a way that might contradict some of our convictions, thoughts, and intentions. It feels contradictory because we have no idea why we behaved in a certain way. And that can be quite frustrating, overwhelming, and scary.

One way to get out of this frustrating situation is to take a close look at the drivers of our behavior. Although we usually assume that our consciousness controls our behavior, we get in situations where we realize that we don’t behave quite as rational as we thought or wanted. Emotions and beliefs took control of our behavior. The key here is to realize what is behind these emotions and thoughts.

In dealing with these situations, it can help to do the following exercise: Assume you have different parts in you that all want your best. You can imagine them as different actors on a stage. Every one of those actors has an idea of how to improve your current situation and get you into a better place.

For example, one actor might be “security”. He is the part in you that governs your safety and tells you that if only you manage to achieve a certain level of security, you will feel good. He is making you behave in a way to increase his feelings of security: You only go to places you already know, you don’t quit the job with a steady income, or you cut your winners short to secure the win early.

Another actor might be “competence”. This actor tries to protect your feelings of competence by bringing you in a situation where you can shine - or at least gives you the impression to shine. This actor will tell you that you were right in behaving the way you did and that the other person or the market was the cause for a bad outcome.

You might also have an actor that reflects “acknowledgement”, that will make sure you look good in others eyes. This actor tells you to say or do certain things in order to get applause from other people. If this actor is too loud, you might avoid being honest and thus, prevent yourself from getting support when you desperately need it.

Anxiety can also be an actor. This part of you wants you to save you from the worst thing that could happen by constantly warning you what danger might wait for you around the corner. This part prevents you from not entering into a good trade after your trading plan produced a series of stops.

I don’t know the different actors on your stage and sometimes the cast changes. In one situation there might be a lot of different actors and in others only a few. What will get you in trouble is if there are one or two lead actors on the stage all the time. That’s where the trouble starts, because it isn’t balanced. All of our actors have useful aims. It’s all about the right dosage.

Sometimes, one actor was very useful at a certain time in our life and we think that his way is the only or the right way out of a bad situation. But soon we will find out that although this actor was useful when we were younger – it isn’t that beneficial now. Because we have changed and our situation has changed. This is exactly the time when we need to realize that every actor has its moments and it is important to listen to and to integrate all of them.

For example, aiming for autonomy is a very good intention and can help you in situations where you need to show others that you can decide for yourself and that you do make good decisions. Maybe this actor was absolutely needed when you tried to fight for autonomy and respect earlier in your life. But your situation probably has changed. Now, you are grown up and don’t need to show other people that you are capable of taking your life in your own hands. It might be more useful to accept that you don’t need to be right all the time in order to be respected (from yourself or others). To realize that nobody was born perfect and to accept your own flaws, get support and improve.

To sum up so far: You have different parts in you and they all fight for a spot on the stage. What should you do with this information?

First, realize which actor is driving your behavior. Who is on your stage while you are in a specific situation? You do that by listening to yourself. Put yourself back in the situation mentally and write down every thought that comes into your mind. Then, take a look at each thought and try to find a belief or an aim that’s behind this thought. Who is talking and what does this actor want to achieve?

If you found your actors, see if they should be on the stage. What is important to you in this situation and does this actor help you to achieve this goal? If yes: Should he have such a prominent role? If no: Acknowledge the good intention of each actor but also tell him, that their way might not work this time. Let’s try another approach and see how it goes.

Finally, look out for other actors that might be more useful. What would they say? Put them in your mental spotlight by formulating specific thoughts that can help you in difficult situations.

Dr. Hanna Hofmann
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